Networking the Design Center
Design centers—they’re popping up all over the place. Over the past ten years, CE manufacturers have woken up to the fact that by creating a space that embodies their brand and accurately demonstrates their product offering, they stand to grow their overall market share in both the design center’s local market and the national/international market as a whole.
Moreover, these manufacturers have recognized that despite the often sizable investment required to build, staff and market a design center, the space can play a vital role in the manufacturer’s own outreach efforts to new and existing markets.
For Dana Innovations, it became apparent that with three distinct brands (Sonance, iPort and Trufig) and more than 30 years of innovation, the timing was right to build their own design center. The completed center opened its doors about 75 days ago and by all accounts, the reactions from both custom integrators and the design community have been extremely positive.
About four months ago, we received a call from Jason Sloan, Chief Sales Officer at Dana Innovations (DI), asking for our help in completing the one aspect of DI’s new design center in Southern California that had been slightly overlooked: The network.
“We needed a way to showcase our products, but we wanted to do it in a way that reflected how people use our products,” said Sloan. “We also knew we wanted to create a gallery—rather than a lifestyle-oriented space—to allow for interior designers and architects to see our products against a blank canvas. The DNA of our company from the beginning has been centered on both performance and aesthetics, and as you go through the timeline of our company, this would not have made sense at any other time in our history.”
Over the last few years, we’ve all been part of an amazing technological shift as networking has moved from being “that thing connected to one desktop computer” to an ever-present cloud that enables the many personal electronic devices in our lives to connect to both the internet and to other devices. The reality of the integrator’s world is that today’s consumers stream their music from a local library and from the cloud. They control their stereos, distributed audio systems and their automation systems from a hand-held tablet connected to their home’s network via Wi-Fi.
It quickly became clear to DI that they needed a robust and reliable network to ensure that demonstrations worked smoothly every time. With several zones of distributed streaming music serving the design center’s demonstration areas, the adjacent engineering spaces that occupy the building and many roaming touchscreens and i-devices, the networking foundation for the design center was critical to the overall success of the space. This technological shift continues to affect so many aspects of our lives as a species that we lack a sufficient number of social scientists to study them all. And yet this shift is 100 percent embodied in Dana Innovations’ design center.
The reliance of DI’s design center on its networking foundation is congruent with the facts in the field: Without a robust, enterprise-grade networking infrastructure, it is now near impossible to deploy an automation system that functions properly. Moreover, integrators need to have a solid business plan and procedures in place that allow them to not only deploy the correct solution up front, but that also enables them to service that solution over the life of the deployment.
For Dana Innovations’ design center to do its job, it was an absolute requirement that iPads and other hand-held devices be able to walk throughout the design center and through the adjacent engineering spaces without disconnecting. This is no different than the requirement in a home. Thinking about this reality and the fact that manufacturers are now joining the ranks of Access Networks clients, I cannot help but marvel at the state of our industry today.
Just six years ago, the network was an afterthought in the bidding process. The last items we integrators added to quotes were routers and switches, if they were there at all. Today, many integrators are not only offering networks and IT services (59 percent according to CEDIA’s 2011 Benchmarking survey), but CE sales professionals are actually starting conversations with potential clients by focusing on the importance of the network. This is quite a shift from amps and speakers.
As you read this, you may very well be attending this year’s CEDIA EXPO in Indianapolis, the theme of which is “Own the Network. Own the home.” I couldn’t agree more. While you attend CEDIA EXPO, take a look at all the devices that require network access; take note of how many wireless networks your iPad finds when you go to check your e-mail; think back to how your business deployed automation systems ten years ago and marvel at how profoundly different our world is today. DI’s design center is just one of many examples of how the proliferation of networking has changed our industry for the better.